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Jackets Host Clemson

Oct. 23, 2005

ATLANTA–After an unexpected week off, Georgia Tech returns to action by hosting Clemson Saturday at 3:30 p.m. at Bobby Dodd Stadium/Grant Field. The game will be nationally televised on ESPN.

Tech is 4-2 overall, 2-2 in the ACC after a 35-10 win at Duke on Oct. 15. Last weekend’s scheduled game at Miami was postponed to Nov. 19 due to the threat of Hurricane Wilma, leaving the Jackets idle.

Clemson, coming off a 37-7 win over Temple, is now 4-3 overall, 2-3 ACC.

Offensively, the Jackets are led by the skilled trio of quarterback Reggie Ball, wide receiver Calvin Johnson and tailback P.J. Daniels.

Ball, the junior from Stone Mountain, Ga., is averaging 243.8 yards of total offense per game, including 212.0 yards through the air with five touchdown passes as well as two rushing touchdowns.

His favorite target is Johnson, the 6-4 sophomore who leads Tech and the ACC with 32 catches for 581 yards and four touchdowns, an eye-catching 18.2 yards per catch.

A senior from Houston, Texas, Daniels carries the load on the ground, averaging 82.3 yards per game, which is second in the ACC. But sophomore Tashard Choice stepped up with a career-high 107 yards against Duke and is averaging 43.7 yards per game with four touchdowns.

The Tech defense is anchored by all-ACC middle linebacker Gerris Wilkinson, who leads the Jackets with 44 tackles, including six tackles for loss and one interception, while junior linebacker KaMichael Hall has a team-leading seven tackles for loss.

Sophomore linebacker Philip Wheeler leads the ACC with four interceptions for a Rambling Wreck unit that is second in the nation with 14 picks.

TECH-MIAMI GAME POSTPONED BY HURRICANE WILMA

Georgia Tech’s game at Miami, originally scheduled for Saturday, Oct. 22 at the Orange Bowl, was postponed by the threat of Hurricane Wilma.

The only other time Georgia Tech had a game postponed was 2001 following the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. The Yellow Jackets were scheduled to play at Florida State on Sept. 15, but the game was moved to Dec. 1. Tech’s only other weather-related incident was in 2000, when the Jackets were scheduled to open the season Aug. 27 at Virginia Tech in the BCA Bowl, but heavy rain and severe lightning caused the game to be cancelled just moments before kickoff. The contest was not rescheduled.

The Tech-Miami game will be played Nov. 19, meaning that the Jackets will end the season with a daunting trifecta: at Virginia on Nov. 12, at sixth-ranked Miami on Nov. 19 and at home against fourth-ranked Georgia Nov. 26.

THE SERIES WITH CLEMSON

Georgia Tech holds a 44-23-2 lead in the series with Clemson, which dates all the way back to 1898. The two teams are permanent rivals in opposite divisions in the new Atlantic Coast Conference, meaning they will continue to play each year.

The Tigers have won three of the last four, following a four-game Tech winning streak from 1997-2000.

Since the schools began playing as ACC members in 1983, Clemson holds a slim 12-10 advantage.

Fifty-four of the 69 meetings have been played in Atlanta, and Tech holds a 39-13-2 advantage on its home field, although the Tigers have won the last two games at Bobby Dodd Stadium/Grant Field.

LAST MEETING

Calvin Johnson’s third touchdown catch of the game, with just 11 seconds left, capped a miraculous comeback as Georgia Tech scored three touchdowns in the final five minutes to defeat 18th-ranked Clemson, 28-24, at Clemson Memorial Stadium. Johnson finished with eight catches for 127 yards, and senior Levon Thomas had eight catches for 100 yards. Quarterback Reggie Ball passed for 251 yards and four touchdowns, and P.J. Daniels added 103 yards rushing.

Trailing 17-7, Tech pulled within three on Thomas’ 19-yard touchdown catch with 4:36 left. The Tigers responded almost immediately with a 54-yard touchdown run by Kyle Browning to take 24-14 lead with 3:18 left. After a celebration penalty and a 32-yard kickoff return, Tech took over at its own 49, and eight plays later, Reggie Ball hit Johnson for an eight-yard touchdown in the right corner of the end zone, again pulling the Jackets within three points with just 1:50 remaining. Clemson recovered the onsides kick at its own 33 and then gained nine yards on first down, but the Tech defense held on second and third downs. The Tigers were forced to punt with 25 seconds, but an errant snap gave Tech the ball at the 11-yard line with 16 seconds to play. Ball lofted a pass to Johnson in the left corner of the end zone for the winning touchdown. The Jackets had to survive one last play after Clemson, aided by a celebration penalty, returned the kickoff to the Tech 31-yard line.

CLOSE SHAVES WITH THE TIGERS

Last year’s dramatic victory by Georgia Tech over Clemson was just the latest in a string of close games between the two schools. Nine of the last 10 games between Tech and Clemson have been decided by five points or fewer, including six straight games from 1997-01 that were decided by exactly three points.

Other dramatic finishes between Tech and Clemson in the last decade:

2001, Clemson 47, Tech 44 (ot):

In a game that featured 10 lead changes, Woody Dantzler’s 11-yard run in overtime provided the final margin. Trailing 34-26 in the fourth quarter, Tech took a 38-34 lead with less than four minutes to play on touchdown runs by Joe Burns and Sidney Ford. Clemson answered by converting a fourth-and-13 into a 63-yard touchdown pass from Dantzler to J.J. McKelvey with 1:58 to play. Tech quarterback George Godsey moved the Jackets 87 yards on 10 plays for Luke Manget’s game-tying field goal with six seconds left in regulation.

2000, Tech 31, Clemson 28:

George Godsey hit Kerry Watkins for the game-winning, 16-yard touchdown pass with just seven seconds left. Clemson led 24-21 after Brian Mance’s 88-yard punt return for a touchdown, but Godsey, who passed for 454 yards, guided the Jackets on two 80-yard scoring drives in the final 10 minutes. First he found Kelly Campbell for a 48-yard touchdown with 6:35 to play. After Clemson regained the lead, 28-24, on a Willie Simmons-to-Rod Gardner touchdown pass with 1:52 left, Godsey completed seven-of-11 passes for 72 yards, capped by the game-winner to Watkins, who caught four passes for 51 yards on the drive. Campell finished with a school-record 14 catches for 209 yards.

1999, Tech 45, Clemson 42:

Tech’s Joe Hamilton passed for 322 yards and five touchdowns. The Jackets led 28-7 in the second quarter and 45-28 in the fourth, but Clemson pulled within three with seven minutes left. The Tigers had fourth-and-seven at the Tech 43 with three minutes to play, but Chris Young batted down Woody Dantzler’s pass inside the 10-yard line.

1998, Tech 24, Clemson 21:

Joe Burns scored the winning touchdown on a one-yard run with 1:00 left. Trailing 21-17, Tech took over at its own 43 with 2:30 remaining. Joe Hamilton complete three passes for 53 yards to set up the winning score.

1997, Tech 23, Clemson 20:

Brad Chambers kicked the game-winning 20-yard field goal with 1:54 left. The kick was set up by Harvey Middleton who returned a punt 21 yards to the Clemson 44, then caught a 39-yard pass from Joe Hamilton down to the five-yard line.

JOHNSON LEADS ACC

All-America candidate Calvin Johnson, one of the nation’s most exciting players, leads the ACC in receptions and receiving yards per game.

The 6-4 sophomore has 32 catches for 581 yards and four touchdowns, averages of 5.3 receptions and 96.8 yards per game. He had a season-best 10-catch, 130-yard performance against NC State, and then added four catches for 73 yards against Duke.

For his career, Johnson now has 80 catches for 1,418 yards and 11 touchdowns in 18 games. That’s career averages of 17.7 yards per catch, and 78.7 yards per game, a figure that ranks fourth among all active receivers in the nation.

JACKETS SECOND IN NATION IN INTERCEPTIONS

Georgia Tech is second in the nation in interceptions with 14 (2.3 per game), tied with Louisiana Monroe and trailing only TCU, which has 17. The Yellow Jackets reached last year’s season total of 10 interceptions in the first three games.

The Jackets grabbed three interceptions and recovered a fumble in the win over Connecticut. Tech forced five turnovers in its season-opening win over Auburn with four interceptions and a fumble recovery, all in the second half. The Jackets added three interceptions against North Carolina, again all in the second half, and two each against NC State and Duke.

Tech is 8th in the nation in turnover margin at +1.17.

HOMECOMING

The Clemson game is Georgia Tech’s annual Homecoming celebration. The Yellow Jackets have won nine straight Homecoming games, including last year’s 24-7 victory over Duke. Tech’s last Homecoming loss was against Clemson, 24-3, in 1995, the only other time Tech has played the Tigers on Homecoming. The Jackets have a record of 41-13-1 in Homecoming games, including a 12-6-1 mark when playing Duke for Homecoming.

CHOICE CUTS

The Georgia Tech backfield is developing into an effective one-two punch with senior P.J. Daniels and sophomore Tashard Choice, who joined the Yellow Jackets this season after transferring from Oklahoma.

Choice rushed for a career-best 107 yards on just 15 carries and scored two touchdowns in Tech’s win at Duke. Earlier against Connecticut, he had 89 yards rushing and two touchdowns. Last fall at Oklahoma, Choice totalled 100 yards on 22 carries.

For the season, the pair of Daniels and Choice have combined for 756 yards rushing (126.0 yards per game) and six touchdowns.

WHEELER STEALS

Sophomore linebacker Philip Wheeler leads the ACC and ranks third in the nation with four interceptions in six games.

Wheeler, who also has three pass breakups, grabbed one of Tech’s four interceptions in the win over Auburn, and then added picks against North Carolina, NC State and Duke.

THE “OTHER” JOHNSON

He’s not the most famous player named Johnson playing wide receiver for Georgia Tech, but redshirt freshman James Johnson is beginning to make a name for himself.

James Johnson has begun to emerge over Tech’s last two games. After catching just two passes in the first two five games, he has five catches for 61 yards in the last two contests. Against Duke, he had three receptions for 24 yards, including a nine-yard touchdown pass. He also rushed twice for nine yards and had one punt return for eight yards.

BALL’S “FEETS”

Over the last two games, junior quarterback Reggie Ball has rushed for 132 yards and two touchdowns on 21 carries. For the season, Ball is Tech’s third-leading rusher with a net of 159 yards and an average of 4.0 yards per carry.

Ball has been sacked just three times all season. As a team, Tech leads the ACC in sacks allowed with five, including just two sacks allowed in four conference games.

Ball has moved into third place in career rushing yards by a Tech signal caller, trailing only Joe Hamilton and option specialist Danny Myers.

Career Rushing Yards by Tech QB Years   Yards

1. Joe Hamilton 1996-99 1,758 2. Danny Myers 1973-75 921 3. Reggie Ball 2003-present 875 4. Shawn Jones 1989-92 855

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